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Best cities for young families in MN

Best cities for young families in MN

From lakes to parks to quality schools, cities in Minnesota offer incredible locations to raise a family. Do you love the action in big cities or prefer a small-town feel? The Twin Cities offers both action-packed and quiet retreats, all within easy reach. Plus, those who live in Minnesota enjoy a fair cost of living and low crime rates across the entire state.

#1 Eagan, Minnesota

Eagan is the place for year-round family fun! Let’s start with the beautiful Eagan Community Center and Central Park—home to community events, camps, parent/child classes, preschool, gyms and The Blast. The Blast indoor playground offers out-of-this-world birthday parties and a great way for young kids to release energy, especially on rainy days or during those long winter months.

Looking for farm-to-table options? Market Fest is offered at the community center outdoors, June through September, and indoors, November through February. This weekly event includes a farmers market, music, art and family-friendly activities. Central Park is also home to summer movies in the park, a fun splash pad, numerous festivals, art events and more.

Other activities in Eagan perfect for kids of all ages include Caponi Art Park, Good Time Park (indoor play includes separate zones for toddlers and grade schoolers), Cascade Bay Water Park, Trapp Farm Tubing Hill, Rockin’ Jump Eagan indoor trampoline park, Lebannon Hills regional park including Schulze Lake Beach, ice skating at the civic arena, or a visit to any of Eagan’s 56 neighborhood parks. Older kids love the Lexington-Diffley skate park where they can ride their skateboard, scooter, in-line skates and bikes on smooth concrete complete with ramps, rails, pipes and more.

Education highlight: Eagan High School was recently named in the 2019 top 10 best high schools in the state by U.S. News and World Report. Glacier Hills Elementary School is one of the best performing elementary schools in Dakota County with math, reading and science proficiency test scores near 80 percent.1

  • Median sold price: $350K
  • Population: 68,347
  • ParkScore®: 80 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 24

#2 Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is home to museums, lakes, recreation centers, countless family-friendly (and even dog-friendly) restaurants and breweries, festivals and more. The Walker Art Center offers free family-days on the first Saturday of the month, and you can pair it with exploration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Enjoy a picnic at Minnehaha Falls. Take a walk around Lake Harriet. Grab a treat at the Waffle Bar or Izzy’s Ice Cream. Catch a Twins game.

Think Minneapolis is all warehouse buildings and high rises? Think again. The city of Minneapolis has a strong commitment to green space and is home to 266 parks. Minneapolis ranked #1 among the nation’s largest cities by ParkScore® from 2015-2018 before falling to #3 for 2019, still a very noteworthy placement. The Minneapolis “River First” project aims to connect the river to north Minneapolis neighborhoods, and there are also planned investments in the parks within the North Loop and Towerside neighborhood.

Minneapolis offers 62 wading pools, two water parks, a natural swimming pool and an indoor aquatics center. A few family favorites include Powderhorn Park on the south side with its wading pool and sports courts, the multiple-age play structures in the North Loop playground, and the unique musical playground at Jackson Square Park.

Education highlight: In the heart of Fulton and Linden Hills neighborhoods, Lake Harriet Community School—serving grades K through 8—ranks among the highest in the state with proficiency test scores in the 90-95% range.

  • Median sold price: $285K
  • Population: 428,483
  • ParkScore®: 96 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 275

#3 Saint Paul, Minnesota

When it comes to proximity to parks, Minnesota’s top spot goes to St. Paul, surpassing Minneapolis and ranking #2 out of the nation’s 100 largest cities. St. Paul is home to 200 parks, 26 recreation centers and four aquatic centers, including the year-round Great River Water Park inside Oxford Community Center. Saint Paul’s tagline “the most livable city in America” certainly holds true for young families.

Looking for family-friendly events and activities? You can find countless ideas at visitsaintpaul.com. Hear a lion roar at Como Zoo. Rent a surrey bike or pedal boat at Como Lakeside Pavilion. Expand your mind at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Stay cool at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. Take a stroll along the mighty Mississippi River. And, of course, grab some Sweet Martha Cookies at the Minnesota State Fair.

If you’re looking for kid-friendly restaurants, visitsaintpaul.com recommends a slice of pizza at Cossetta’s or Pizza Luce, breakfast at Colossal Café or a yummy malt at Mickey’s Diner.

Education highlight: Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion Academy, K-5 elementary school on the Hamline Elementary campus in Saint Paul, is one of the top performing schools in the state. Core subjects are taught in Mandarin Chinese and one hundred percent of students tested proficient in science in 2018.

  • Median sold price: $230K
  • Population: 313,010
  • ParkScore®: 98 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 203

#4 Mound, Minnesota

If your family loves the water, Mound should rank top on your list of cities to consider. This small suburb of under 9,000 residents is home to six beaches. There are countless opportunities for boating, kayaking, fishing and water sports at the numerous lakes and bays in and around the city.

Mound also offers affordable housing options within the highly-rated Westonka school district and most residents live near one of the 33 city parks. The nearby Lowry Nature Center offers sensory-friendly Sundays and the Farm Store at Gale Woods Farm in neighboring Minnetrista offers farm-to-table food.

Fun fact for young families: Mound is the birthplace of Tonka toy trucks.

Education highlight: Shirley Hills Primary School was recognized last spring by the Minnesota Department of Education for achieving Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports sustaining exemplar status. Mound Westonka High School ranked number 12 out of Minnesota’s 853 high schools for 2019 by U.S. News and World Report.

  • Median sold price: $300K
  • Population: 9,347
  • ParkScore®: 97 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 9

#5 Edina, Minnesota

Adventure Peak in Edinborough Park is Minnesota’s largest indoor play park. Pair this with an indoor pool, amphitheater, walking track and fitness area, and you have endless year-round fun for the whole family. Toddlers and preschoolers can even release energy in the Great Hall, a 60x90 multipurpose space featuring a moonwalk, scooters, hula-hoops, balls and ride-on toys—included in your Adventure Peak admission.

Venture outdoors to Centennial Lakes Park for a paddle boat ride, lawn bowling or mini golf. Catch one of the many frequent concerts in the outdoor amphitheater or throw down a blank for the weekly summer movie nights. Shop for fresh food at the farmers market every Thursday from June through September. And rent a pair of ice skates or an ice sled for a unique experience in the winter. The warming house even features indoor and outdoor fireplaces, plus hot chocolate and concessions.

Edina offers a variety of options for scenic walking and biking, and to enjoy public art. Families can make a splash during the summer at the Edina Aquatic Center, watch a flick at the iconic Edina Cinema or enjoy a picnic at one of Edina’s 40 parks.

Education highlight: Six Edina schools have earned National Blue Ribbon School honors, including Normandale Elementary French Immersion School and Highlands Elementary which have both received the award twice. Edina High School was named in the 2019 top 10 Minnesota high schools by U.S. News and World Report.

  • Median sold price: $623K
  • Population: 52,535
  • ParkScore®: 88 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 104

#6 Golden Valley, Minnesota

Golden Valley’s Schaper Park redefines play for all ages and abilities. Their challenge course, otherwise known as a ninja course, encourages fitness with obstacles, timer sprint tracks and a variety of play equipment. Love to bike? The Luce Line Trail passes right through Schaper Park, a great rest stop to stretch and fill up water bottles. Schaper Park is just one of 60 Golden Valley parks.

On those cold or rainy days, bring the kids to the Brookview Backyard, a multi-level indoor playground for kids 12 and under. Toddlers and preschoolers can even enjoy their own special area, and the whole family can refuel at Brookview’s Three One Six Bar and Grill.

As kids grow into tweens and teens, Golden Valley offers a whole lot of reasons to stay. 3rd Lair indoor skatepark welcomes beginners on scooters to kickflip experts. For a unique art experience, take a class or camp at Skylab Glass Arts. Or fight the winter blahs with fat tire biking or disc golf at Brookview. Family tensions running high? Head over to the Game Show Battle Rooms, recommended for ages 10 and older, for a round of intense Family Feud.

Education highlight: Meadowbrook Elementary is one of only a handful of schools in the state to incorporate the Engineering is Elementary curriculum, developed by the Museum of Science in Boston, for advanced learning in science, technology, engineering and math. Golden Valley is also home to Perpich Arts High School, a tuition-free, public high school for students in grades 11 and 12 who display a strong commitment to arts education.

  • Median sold price: $375K
  • Population: 21,580
  • ParkScore®: 93 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 18

#7 Bloomington, Minnesota

As a suburb of Minneapolis, Bloomington offers a mix of urban and suburban with family entertainment choices that is hard to beat. Most residents live within a short hop, skip and a jump from one of the 76 local parks.

Hyland Lake Park offers year-round recreation for all ages. Head to Hyland Hills for downhill skiing and snowboarding in the winter, car shows and concerts in the warmer months, summer movies, a 18-hole disc golf course, and even scenic ski lift rides to see autumn colors. The award-winning Hyland play area features slides up to 50 feet long, an area designed for children under five and those with special needs, and a variety of climbing and play structures that even mom and dad will have to try. The Richardson Nature Center combines education and fun, both indoors and out, with an up-close look at wildlife, solar energy and more.

The famous Mall of America® could take up a whole chapter with family attractions. A good starting point? Check out the Crayola Experience or SEA LIFE® aquarium. Also, plan a visit to the nearby Works museum for some engineering fun.

Still not convinced? Make a splash at the Bloomington aquatic center or Bush Lake Beach; Learn to skate at the Bloomington Ice Garden; Take a Zen moment at Normandale’s Japanese gardens; Shop fresh produce at the outdoor or indoor farmers market; Take a ride on the wild side at Nickelodeon Universe.

Education highlight: Bloomington Public Schools is one of four school districts in the state approved as an Innovation Research Zone. This approval helps the district reduce and eliminate disparities for low-income students and helps prepare all students to enter kindergarten, read fluently by third grade and graduate from high school prepared for college and career.

  • Median sold price: $296K
  • Population: 89,654
  • ParkScore®: 85 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 45

#8 Woodbury, Minnesota

Woodbury is home to an astounding 160 parks! Madison’s Place playground is one of the most popular destinations for families with 16,000 square feet of fun with play structures specifically designed to be all-inclusive with accessibility ramps. Need to cool off? There’s even a splash pad.

Lookout Ridge indoor playground offers an option for when the weather is less than ideal or you just need a break from the sun. Located inside Woodbury Central Park, this play area is designed to mirror the St. Croix Valley, complete with cliffs, a cave, a treehouse, forests and even sound effects. Central Park is conveniently connected to the local library and YMCA.

During the summer, families can enjoy free movies in the park at Lake Middle School’s outdoor fields. And during the colder months, movies and concerts are held indoors at Central Park. Woodbury’s popular Ojibway Park is currently under renovation for expansion and improvements to the playground, skate park and bandshell. The park is scheduled to re-open this fall.

Education highlight: There are seven quality elementary schools in Woodbury. Bailey Elementary is a national Blue Ribbon School, and Liberty Ridge Elementary offers a unique, inclusive learning environment with a pod area for each grade level.

  • Median sold price: $419K
  • Population: 70,840
  • ParkScore®: 89 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 56

#9 Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Eden Prairie is home to some exceptional places for family fun and creative learning. Where else can you fill up a water jug from a natural spring, right in the middle of a metro city? Or enjoy a community astronomy program exploring the night sky through a 16-inch diameter telescope? Families can discover their creative side at the Eden Prairie Art Center, treat their palate at Way Cool Cooking School, or jump to new heights at Airmaxx trampoline park.

The Eden Prairie Community Center will take care of all your fitness needs with state-of-the-art equipment, gymnasium, classes, lap pool, dive pool, zero-depth recreation pool complete with waterslide, an indoor playground and three indoor ice rinks.

Make a splash during warmer months at a splashpad (Miller Park or Round Lake Park) or at one of the three public beaches. Lifeguards are on watch during specific hours at Riley Lake Park and Round Lake Park. Round Lake even offers kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals for a small fee.

Education highlight: Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion school introduces Spanish beginning in kindergarten and boasts an incredible teaching staff approval rating of 99 percent. Eden Prairie schools were recognized by the Minnesota Department of Education in 2018 for several of their math and reading progress initiatives.

  • Median sold price: $450K
  • Population: 63,456
  • ParkScore®: 82 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • Active listings featuring 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, fenced yard: 46

Sources:
1Minnesota proficiency test scores sourced from the Minnesota Department of Education’s Minnesota Report Card
2ParkScore® is created by The Trust for Public Land, a non-profit agency that helps communities raise funds, conduct research and planning, acquire and protect land, and design and renovate parks, playgrounds, trails and gardens.
3Active listing data based on MLS listing data as of August 2, 2019. Listing information changes frequently. For up-to-date listing information, visit edinarealty.com.

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